Keano Is N.Y.’s Most Famous and Mysterious Subway Psychic. I Found Her.

My mystical, magical hunt through auras, angels and property records.

Comments: 83

  1. "Who gets to claim supernatural insight? Was this a protected religious practice?" asks the article. Why, yes. Since these small groups were outlawed, it is a protected religious practice of the mostly male-dominated major religions: Catholicism, Judaism, various types of Protestantism, and virtually all other religions, Eastern and Western. For all of them you pay your price, the institution makes a living, and you get some sort of spiritual lift or "insight." Note the luxuries of the megachurches, the Vatican, the temples dripping with riches. It's possible to argue that storefront spiritualists are more efficient managers of money. There are two major differences between the practice in the article and major world religions (and minor ones, too, for that matter). First: size. Because of size and power, the major religions somehow have more of the world believing they have a stronger and more valid tie to whatever of the about 5000 existing gods they decide is the right one--or ones. Second: male vs female leadership. Spiritualist movement was mainly led by women; many new religious and spiritual organizations were founded by and run by women in 19th C--and still are. The Christian Scientists, for example, remain since that time, founded by Mary Baker Eddy. This is a beautiful piece and I enjoyed the research into the Spiritualists, how the fliers are distributed and into the woman herself.

  2. Sometimes when you peel back the layers, there is an emptiness inside. The ending is entirely predictable, but surprising at the same time. It ends with a whimper, not a bang. I shouldn't be surprised, but it's like a cliched movie about the American dream turned sideways.

  3. Thank you NYTimes for the write up. Keano has always been in my top list of people to find, along with, Waldo and Carmen San Diego.

  4. Beautiful. Mitchell and Liebling are smiling down at you.

  5. Though I have never met Keano, I did recently have a run-in with the woman who posts her fliers on the subway. As I sat on the train, riding downtown on the 2 from 96th Street with a friend and her two young children, the woman reached into her bag for a screwdriver and leaned over our heads as she aggressively maneuvered it to pry open the plexiglass cover and slip the flyer over one of the subway ads. To my mild protestation that aside from the unnecessary invasion of our personal space perhaps she could do this when people, including young children, weren’t sitting directly beneath her, I was met with a string of expletives and the ‘threat’ of some kind of curse. Of course I laughed the whole thing off as patently ridiculous. Nonetheless the whole interaction was unpleasant and obnoxious at best, and downright unsettling for my friend’s young sons.

  6. @Marco Ajello Just for a moment I was transported back to the subway of the 70s.

  7. great story. next I'd like to know who these people are that spend a fortune on a fortune

  8. @nonpersonage people who are grasping for hope. I popped into a psychic one when I was desperate. When she asked for $1400, I saw the grift immediately and bounced.

  9. The wonder of psychics! My favorite - Whoopi Goldberg in “Ghost” - she was believable, momentarily. Aren’t they all?

  10. When I was a lot younger, I liked to have psychic readings done, thought that I could learn something about myself that I wasn’t privy to. I was going up the steps of a tea leaves reader’s shop, when my mother’s voice came clearly into my head, intoning the aphorism, “A fool and her money are soon parted!” That cured me. Anything I need to know about my aura, chakras, I can “read” myself.

  11. Very well written article. I rarely read whole articles (who has the time?) but couldn’t help myself with this one.

  12. @Josh How do you enjoy the countless books that are as well or even better written, and take weeks to ingest? I frequently complement the writer, in my mind, when I pick up the book for the last few pages, hoping there were more and the magic would go on. Read a whole article? You bet! Sometimes two or three times if it is a good one.

  13. @reid some people even take time to read the comments. Go figure!

  14. Keano has had a challenging life, with obviously more challenges to come. It’s all really rather sad. Cynicism is warranted, but not to her level. Not too late to find community, Keano.

  15. "The next step in mankind's evolution is when it learns to dispense with religion." I read this somewhere years ago and hoped I would live long enough to see it. I really thought the internet would crack this particular nut, but it's not happening yet. As, intellectually, US society has been going backwards for a while now, it's not going to happen anytime soon. That people like Keano can still con gullible people in the 21st century is testament to superstition's hold on some people's minds.

  16. Great read, thank you. There are real psychics, mediums and astrologers and there are fakes. A good one can do more for you than any psychiatrist, and the bad ones usually do no serious harm beyond taking your money. In truth, we all have psychic abilities to a degree.

  17. @CJ Yes, and the real psychics are called "statisticians".

  18. Trumpism in a nutshell. Seems to me, one thing we all share is confirmation bias.

  19. The unanswerable questions of life can seem a trouble. Stories of the quests for meaning follow fairly well-worn paths. The feminine has one approach, the masculine another. The feminine has traditionally been suppressed. The masculine enshrined in ancient traditions that reach into today. In traditional nontechnical societies healing techniques were developed that actually worked. They were practiced for that reason. But much of this knowledge is lost. Results could be random and could not survive the rigors of the scientific method. But then science cannot answer the questor's query about the meaning of life. And we seem to reject the notion that is it the living and dying progressive continuance that rules. Notions of meaning are clear - come into the flow, join it, and go. There is nothing to fear, it's just DNA replicating itself on the way to the next species. Maybe it can do better than us.

  20. thanks for the article. I was trying to imagine something behind the fliers. this did not kill the mystery for me.

  21. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. Beautifully written and engaging!

  22. I thought this article was so interesting. Psychics are always so mystical and intriguing. Keano was a determined woman to keep doing her craft in spite of all the difficulties she encountered. I hope her spirit comes back to full health. Thank you for this fun read. I got good vibes, very good vibes.

  23. A good story Many have the skill, but we all must be careful with it $600 and a portrait would have worth it once

  24. The ads are iconic, but I still miss Dr. and Mrs. Zizmor!

  25. Those fliers look really intriguing and magical. And it’s interesting how the quality of the mysticism steadily decreases once you have fallen into the trap. It makes sense that the hook is enchanting, but the actual product is not very good. I feel bad for the poor sap on the phone who was considering giving Keano $750...

  26. This story would make a great novella... I loved being transported into this world. For a moment you are transported into something magical, at the next moment something mundane. Very much a New York story.

  27. The interesting thing is that our world already IS so magical, even without psychics: photosynthesis, the nuclear fusion in the sun, the fact that light streams through glass but not through plaster, colored leaves, puffy clouds, geysers, rainbows, thunder. And don't get me started on the magic (white and black) of human love and kindness and, yes, malevolence. "The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper." Eden Phillpotts, "A Shadow Passes" (Cecil Palmer & Hayward, London, 1918) page 19.

  28. I was surprised that the author did not educate himself on the background of the tarot cards or aura reading. It would be more interesting if we found what tarot deck Keano was using and whether or not she knew how to read tarot cards. The author just lumps all the services under the umbrella of psychic services, all equally unreliable. For those of us for whom the world of astrology and tarot is not some exotic never before visited universe, this article could have provided a bit more depth and research into the subject.

  29. Genuine healers and seers recognize accountability to themselves and others. And most importantly "those who have the sight will always recognize another, those who do not have the sight are unable to do so." Enchantment does exist, but discernment for both practioner and petitioner is essential.

  30. This shop is just a few blocks from my grandparents place in Bay Ridge. I think the next time I go up I am going to see what Keano says about me. Psychic abilities are sometimes just a novelty or gimmick, but some people can truly feel your vibe or predict what may happen. I have a family member who sees people in her dreams in a way to warn of their upcoming passing.

  31. @Ayesha No she doesn't, I can be certain of that. The gullible like to be duped or amazed. I'm in seventh heaven watching a good magician (conjurer) like The Amazing Randi or Penn and Teller work their craft. At least they are honest and tell you that it is all a trick, and sometimes will show you how it is done. I'm struck at their talent and gifts, but watching Banachek (who also honestly says what he does is a trick) is sometimes scary. I can see how people wanting to have something mystical happen can be duped with even less accomplished actors.

  32. Amazing these crooks are allowed to practice their "trade" right out in the open. Time to ban all tarot store fronts. This is a well written article and I enjoyed reading it. It sort of squares the circle when it comes to the Keano flyers I've seen for years on the train. Next time I see one I will try to destroy it.

  33. @John If we ban all tarot store fronts as you suggest, for the reason that they are crooks practicing their trade right out in the open, then what are we to do with all the churches, mosques and temples? If not, what, if anything, is the essential difference?

  34. Why is this practice tolerated by the MTA? The ads are being obstructed by these fliers and if I was a business owner paying for them I would want a refund from the MTA. And there is an address to serve a cease and desist order. Romanticizing these swindlers and charlatans shouldn't be promoted in the NY Times.

  35. Ugh... Finally now I know. I've been pronouncing it "keen-oh" for years!

  36. OMG you blew it! a mere $600 and you would have had the answer to what the next level is in Keano inception, and a portrait to boot (which I'm guessing could have been fairly amazing).

  37. This was a great read, if anything to rightly expose these people as the sad examples of humanity they are. And yet incredulously, some of your readers actually seem sympathetic to them and their ‘profession’. Note Well: All psychics, fortune tellers and people of their ilk are Frauds - no exceptions. There are no magical spirit worlds, life auras or ‘vibrations’, and anyone who believes otherwise needs to return to their grade school and ask for their money back. It’s that simple.

  38. With all the horror that modernity has wrought, I don't mind wafting off into the "Keano" world. Whoever the person is behind the mask, she takes us back to a time in America when one could make a living, be adventurous, and still be off the books. This is the grand old America we read about in novels from the era.

  39. I wonder how much Keano costs the MTA who bears the cost of removing hundreds of flyers tucked behind plexiglass on subway cars every week.

  40. @Map Boy Now that they know where to find her, the MTA should sue her for stealing advertising space and for vandalism.

  41. Lots of readers seem fascinated. Not me. I see no difference between Keano and the preachers, priests and ministers who also take your money and claim to know your future--heaven if you behave as their magic book tells them you should, hell if you don't. No thanks. I want none of it.

  42. I'll stick with Keano Reeves, thank you.

  43. I have had the privilege of meeting both sacred monks and con artists posing as evangelists; inner eye prophets and street corner seers for suckers. We humans have a need for certainty in an uncertain life. But real clarity is not for the faint of heart. We are all we have. Do not forget, most religions expect money (alms) in return for prayers and other religious services such as baptisms, Sunday services, weddings, funerals, etc. The only spirituality that is pure is the one we keep to ourselves. Instead of wasting your money on fake news from sidewalk soothsayers or churchbound, robewearing robbers; just meditate. It's free and if you do it long enough you realize the truth is really in there.

  44. This is fun read. I'm always intrigued by mystics and sooth-sayers in our midst. There is that sense that they know more about us than we know about ourselves. I want to believe in the mystery the same way I don't want the magicians tricks uncurtained. But alas, Keano, like all the others draws back her own curtain to expose yet another sad old charlatan. Still, I wish I'd known her.

  45. What a wonderful exploration of the scam artists who prey on those willing to part with their money ( 80 bucks for that?). Indeed, anyone can learn cold reading in a couple hours, but it sounds as if she didn't even do that. I have friends with whom I share coffee and occasionally buy breakfast which bring the same amount of fun and encouragement but without the hokum. I guess there are those who need to travel to Sedona to 'feel the vortex' or have a crystal glow (in their mind) in order to feel special. I, for one, was loved by my family, love my family and friends and take walks with my dog, who has more insight than these fakers. I have no need for their parasitism.

  46. 86th St.! Imagine that! And here I always thought the only famous thing about my neighborhood was L&B Spumoni Gardens...

  47. Love these kinds of NYC stories.

  48. I am reminded of Jay Leno's lines: "Here's something to think about: How come you never see a headline like 'Psychic Wins Lottery'?"

  49. @ronnyc Similarly, why would a psychic have voicemail?

  50. This reminds me of the piece years ago when the author went in search of Dan Smith, the guitar teacher.

  51. Very interesting. I believe in psychic abilities, but I think it is wrong to swindle people with them. No one is so talented that they can diagnose so many people without knowing them. There is often a personal connection that needs to be made. The book "Extraordinary Knowing" by Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer is very revealing. As is "Phenomena" by Annie Jacobsen. There are also interesting stories of soothsayers in the late Roman Republic who attempted to prevent the worst political outcomes when Caesar was making his moves toward empire. Einstein also wrote the German preface to Upton Sinclair's book "Mental Radio."

  52. Good read! PT Barnum said it best there’s a sucker born every minute!

  53. Just a few thoughts. I've known a few psychics and clairvoyants in my life and not one of them EVER charged for their knowledge. They always believed a spiritual gift such as theirs was meant to be shared rather than profited from Second, I think this article demonstrates a great degree of sadness and desperation in society. It also scares me a bit because so many quacks are out there, giving false and purely fictitious information to people who are hurting and in great pain. I could not stop laughing when I read the line, “I’ve been working to repair my aura.” Good grief - and people really buy into that bromide?

  54. @Marge Keller, maybe she meant her car (Saturn Aura). ;-)

  55. @Marge Keller Quitting smoking would seem like a good start.

  56. The MTA spends a ton of money every week removing these ads from the subway. Removal requires an MTA worker with a special tool to get behind the plastic (the people illegally placing the ads also have this tool). A total waste of money at a time when public transport can least afford it.

  57. Thank you for not taking the con. I would have been very disappointed in you damaging you credibility. Interesting piece. Now you might go and find Taki 183. Such adventures make New York appear more real, more down to earth. Thank you.

  58. Never trust a "reading" you have to pay for...

  59. Seems like the article should have ended with the reminder that there 8 (now 10) million stories in the Naked City.

  60. This throwaway detail caught my eye: “...Miss Somp (“seventh daughter born with veil”), who sold her own advice in German.” That veil would be a caul. Babies born en caul (with some or all of the amniotic sac on them) were thought to have special powers. Keano’s con is a classic set up, something often operated by Roma families. But is it harmful? I think so. People are free to throw away their money in any way they wish. However, the “mark” who falls for this kind of thing is often someone who is emotionally needy. The psychic is a kind of paid friend (she flatters and consoles, in the beginning: “Your aura is bright today!”). I see something sad and evil in the manipulation. She wins the mark’s trust and then introduces a vague threat (a black spot, a mist), but of course you must pay up to learn what it is. It’s a basic shakedown. Interesting to read about, but very ugly in intent.

  61. @Passion for Peaches "Yes, I told you, $750. To me. Call after. I love you. Bye."

  62. @DSL , and...so? What’s your point? Did you think the “love” was sincere?

  63. Great, now start the search for that other mythical subway being; Dr. Zizmor.

  64. Yes Dr Z, There was an article about him on NYT, that he retired . There’s no add about him anymore. And yes he was what the add said he was . You missed it.

  65. Years ago I waited in line for a psychic reading at a condo party, where the sponsors had hired a woman to read palms. I was reluctant and skeptical, but my girlfriend at the time pushed for it after her reading. She wanted to know our future together. Uh oh. My girlfriend hovered and asked about our future as the woman examined my palm. The woman looked up and said "I don't want to do this. Uh oh again. My girlfriend insisted. The palm reader relented. "You have an unusual long line of relationships", she said....accurately pinpointing my hopeless and hapless history. "So is this the permanent one....the lasting one?" my girlfriend asked. The psychic was clearly uncomfortable, but she forged ahead. "No, not this one. The next one", she said. This led to quite an awkward moment. But she had it exactly right.

  66. Nothing mystical about a family of Gypsies casting a spell over people desperate for answers. I think outlawing it is patently ridiculous unless you’re going to outlaw therapists, bankers, and everyone else working an angle. If anything all psychics should demand tax exempt status! To me the only difference between going to church and going to a sidewalk psychic is the one on one interaction. In each instance you’re going to be told stories and give up some cash.

  67. @RickNYC Why do you say therapists are "working an angle?" Therapist are graduate-school-educated, licensed practioners who work with Evidence Based Practices (science, research).

  68. I once visited one of those storefront psychics in a curious moment. I complained about my relationship with a best friend, which often turned into arguments with him. Even 'tho I was miles from where we both lived, this friend came walking down the street at the close of the session. I'd say there's something real about what these people do, but weeding them out from all the frauds is nearly impossible.

  69. What a shame that Keano wasn't what she said she was. There are very good and very reputable psychic/mediums; I am one. Do I charge? Yes. Even psychics have overhead. Do I ever upcharge or offer to remove spells etc? Of course not; no ethical psychic would. Do I make my living this way? No, I am a very successful small business owner of several businesses. So why do I read? Because I feel it is helpful to my clients; if it were not helpful, I would not do it. It is taxing, and not fun. It is something many people have the ability to do; we all have intuition. Psychics are just intuitives on overdrive. The main thing to remember is that no matter what information a psychic is picking up, it has to be filtered through that psychics human experience. If it doesn't sound right, ask for clarification. But remember, a reading is but a guide of what lies ahead on your current path. Don't like what you hear? Change it. Change paths. Use your reading as a tool for change. With foresight you can change your path, change your bad habits, and thus create a more joyful life. THAT is how readings should be viewed. Come to Lexington; I can introduce you to quite a few legitimate, honest psychics. And there is no small black spot......

  70. @Beverly me too, totally agree with all you wrote! I also give my clients a resource list with books, websites and a few healers, for their empowerment. A reading is but one stop on the journey to claiming one's life and wholeness!! Yay for ethical readers like you and me.

  71. @Beverly why is it unethical to remove a spell please?

  72. @Beverly A lot of $10 words to justify a penny ante street scam.

  73. As a graduate student in 1970, living deep in the inner city after the riots which left much of Detroit burned down were storefront preachers. As I lived in the inner city, taught their children I had, an as an outsider an in to the workings of the inner city poor. Thus I decided to do a MA thesis on the storefront preachers, the ones who had been 'blessed by the holy spirit, in lieu of any theological training. It was highly profitable as all were fencing goods, running numbers, a few women on the side, healing, telling fortunes and all had a minute or two on the radio station in which they ran biblical numbers as fast as they could for listeners. The aim was not to read John 3:13 but put a 'dime' ten dollars on the number 316 and 'box' it. Hopefully it would come up and if so, lay some change on the storefront preachers who got the tip from god. I happened to discuss this with a Harvard trained Afro-American theologian who perhaps expressed this in but a few words, 'these healers, storefront preachers, fortune tellers are 'pimping' off the bible. After submitting my thesis I stopped in to say hello to my main informant 'Rev Carter. His 'woman' told me that he had died a few days earlier, heart attack, she ran a block away to call an ambulance. When she returned a few minutes later he had passed, friends had already rifled his pockets and stole his 'pimp' shoes. Just another day in the lives of the inner city poor.

  74. Well, gee. You don’t have to be psychic to know that smoking is messing with her aura. Speaking of which - I actually saw someone’s aura once. Decades ago, I was at an opening for a re-vamped Playboy Club in Manhattan and, of course, Hefner was in attendance. When I looked at him, he was surrounded with black energy. It was all around him and extended about three feet. I kept blinking my eyes and shaking my head, thinking something was going on with my vision! Nobody else I looked at was changed in any way. I wasn’t drinking or using drugs. To this day, I can’t explain it away. It happened! Maybe I have a new late-in-life career change opportunity. I should consult Keano.

  75. I used to teach Ethics and the Law to grad students on track to become psychotherapists; one thing I was always adamant about was exploring the power anyone holds when working with vulnerable people, Hippocrates' oath-"Do no harm" applies to anyone in a position of power. In my area there are many storefront readers,the rent on these stores has to be astronomical!! I have heard stories of these "psychics" asking folks to bring more money to clear dark energy, to bring back a lost lover, and on and on. How do you think at $10 or $20 palm reader/card reader really pays her rent? The astronomical amount of money bilked from vulnerable people, people in grief, desperate people, is huge. They put fear into people by saying dark and bad things will happen if they DON'T return with more cash. The only dark and bad thing happening is being ripped off by criminals. I sat one time in mediumship/psychic circle with Terry Iacuzzo, she is a very ethical, well boundaried and compassionate person. I firmly believe in the other side as well as psychic information, I too work as a psychic medium, it is my vocation these last 15 years. It is sacred work and an honor.

  76. Article reminds me of the old adage, 'nothingness equals existence'. But I'd be really interested in reading a well researched article on real psychics and mediums. Perhaps @NYT would consider investing in such a work or must we wait until Trump tweets it?

  77. There are a million scams in the Naked City. This has been one of them.

  78. Hey ! Wait a minute !! I've always notice signs for "Psychic Conventions" posted around the city. Shouldn't the psychics know when and where the conventions are without advertising ?

  79. Keano is literally out here just vibing.

  80. You know that this is totally fake, right?

  81. Anyone who requires increasingly larger payments for their services as a psychic is a fraud. Some people truly do have the gift and can feel, even see, the energy if others. Many of them charge nothing - they do readings out of the goodness of their hearts. I am a medium and have never charged anyone a penny. One lady gave me a cute ring for my toe - the only payment I've ever accepted. I have had readings done by several mediums from the UK. Because of the expenses incurred by their travel to and from the USA, they charged a nominal amount. What I paid to see each of them was only $40 about 15 years ago. The most extensive and accurate reading I've ever had was done by a man I encountered in a bookstore specializing in metaphysical subjects and natural healing. We got to talking for a while and he mentioned that he did hand readings- what many call palm readings - for a donation. The amount was entirely up to me. We went into a back room and this complete stranger proceeded to give me chills by talking about so many aspects of my personality and my past that it amazed me. This was before the internet, so it's not as if he looked at my Facebook profile. It all came from his intuition and inner vision. I've had a number of fascinating readings in my life and I doubt that the total I paid to everyone would pay for a steak dinner for one at that NYC restaurant recently panned by the NYT critic. But beware of the fakes out there!

  82. @Country Girl how do you tap into it.